My hand chases my mind, my mind chases my memory
There is no single way of writing a graphic novel, especially one about your own life, so what I am going to describe here is just the way that I wrote my own graphic memoir.
My biggest treasure is my list of lived anecdotes that I have compiled over the years. Each time I remember something from near or far past that is worthy of telling I add it to my list. I keep my list on Google Documents so that I can access it wherever I am if I am with a phone. When it is time to write a book length story, I look at my list of anecdotes and mark the ones that can be relevant to the main theme. I also mark the ones that I really want to tell even if they are not relevant to the main theme. Then, I find ways of connecting these anecdotes to each other. This is the most fun and frustrating part. It is fun because I end up remembering more as I write. It is frustrating because it is extremely challenging to connect irrelevant anecdotes without being cliché or didactic.
When I remember a particular moment I travel in the mental image. For example if the memory is taking place in the living room, I go to rooms next to the living room, I remember all the people who were at home, I think about neighbors, the day before the incident and the day after the incident. All of this wondering helps me connect this particular memory to a larger whole.
I work chapter by chapter. As the chapters build up, I revisit the beginning of the book and start planting the seeds of the events that will occur later. Sometimes, I throw away an entire chapter and rewrite it.
While writing a draft, I prefer to work with a ballpoint pen and write on a paper. The reason for using ballpoint pen is that the images and ideas come to my mind so fast. Ballpoint allows me to keep up and write and draw as quick as I can. My hand cannot keep up with my thinking speed though, and I end up forgetting or skipping details before I write them. Sometimes I write and draw so fast, one day later, I cannot read what I wrote. When my hand speeds up that is always a good sign. It means that I am travelling in the mental image. I write with images and text. I write a couple sentences and make a quick sketch in 10 seconds, then I move to another sentence. I think with frames.
Once I am done with a draft of a chapter, I am the only person who can read it. Pages are full of half sentences, doodles, arrows pointing here and there. Then, I complete sentences; I fix the grammar, and make the images understandable. Then that chapter is ready for an editor.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers’ Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
This guest column is a supplement to the
“Breaking In” (debut authors) feature of this author
in Writer’s Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.